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Entries in Enterovirus (1)

Tuesday
Sep092014

In the news: Outbreak of Respiratory Virus Hitting Kids Hard

You may have seen a news report about Enterovirus D68, a virus which has sickened more than 1,000 children across 12 states in the US over the past few weeks.

According to a report from the CDC, the first cases occurred in Missouri, where over 300 children have been hospitalized in the past month and 15% of those children have ended up in the intensive care unit!  This Enterovirus D68 is causing these kids to have trouble breathing.  Over half of the children who have been hospitalized had asthma or had previously had wheezing.   Children affected with the virus have ranged from 6 months to 16 years of age.  Since the initial reports from Kansas City, MO a similar outbreak has occurred in Chicago, IL and now a total of twelve states have contacted the CDC for help in investigating enterovirus — including North Carolina (though state health department officials reported this morning that no confirmed cases have been identified yet in NC).

Seeing cases of Enterovirus in the late summer and early fall is expected (cases typically peak in September) but the severity of illness occuring now is quite unusual.  Typically, enteroviruses (there are over 100 types of Enteroviruses) cause rashes and cold-like symptoms such as runny nose, cough, fevers, etc.  Some strains can cause more serious illness (like viral meningitis or encephalitis).

But recently one strain in particular, Enterovirus D68 (EV-D68) is causing severe respiratory illnesses in children. Symptoms include coughing, difficulty breathing and rash. Sometimes they can be accompanied by fever or wheezing.  This EV-D68 strain is uncommon, but not new. It was first identified in the 1960s but there have been fewer than 100 reported cases over the past 50 years.

The good news is that Enterovirus resolves on it's own (we have no ant-viral treatment for this and because it is not a bacterial disease, antibiotics do not help with this illness) within a week or two.  There typically are no long term complications from an Enteroviral infection.  

So what can parents do?  

WASH HANDS!  Enteroviruses are spread from person to person through contact with nasal secretions, saliva, stool, or by contact with contaminated surfaces.  So wash those hands with soap and water for at least 20 seconds very, very often!  Also, avoid touching eyes, nose and mouth with unwashed hands.  Disinfect frequently touched surfaces such as doorknobs.  

KEEP YOUR KIDS HOME IF THEY ARE SICK: Like many other respiratory viruses, EV-D68 appears to spread through close contact with infected people.  If your child is sick, especially with cough and any trouble breathing, keep them home to let them recover and prevent spreading the illness to others.

MONITOR CHILDREN WITH COLD SYMPTOMS CAREFULLY: If your child develops cold symptoms give them Tylenol or Ibuprofen as needed for any aches or fevers and watch their breathing closely.  Signs that they need to be evaluated include:

  • Breathing very quickly (more than 60 times per minute for infants, more than 40-50 times for older kids)
  • Sucking in between their ribs or flaring out their nostrils with each breath
  • Change in color (if your child is coughing and congested and appears blue - call for help immediately)
  • Lethargy (if your child will not respond to questions, is having trouble keeping their eyes open during the day when they are normally awake and is struggling to breathe this may be a sign their oxygen level is too low).

When in doubt, call our office!  Our nurses are available 24 hours a day to speak with you and listen to your concerns to help determine if your child needs to be seen in clinic or sent to the WFBH Emergency Department or is safe to be cared for at home.